A Sitka contractor accidentally snapped a guy-wire on Saturday night, sending an extremely high voltage surge through the city’s electric grid. Sitka lost all electric power for approximately four hours. Some customers didn’t see their power restored until 9:33 p.m. After the lights came on, not all appliances followed suit. The city is now advising citizens to check all life-saving electronic equipment to ensure it still works. The city is also planning a power outage from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday, September 21st to replace damaged equipment at the Marine Street substation.
Do you have damage to your heat pump or other electronic equipment? Let us know at email@example.com. In our story this morning, Raven News incorrectly reported the power outage was two hours long. While that was true for some, other neighborhoods did not see power restored until closer to 10 p.m.
UPDATED — TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH AT 4PM
Sitka’s electric department is scheduling a system-wide outage Friday morning, September 21st from approximately 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. The planned outage will allow the city to replace a surge arrester at the Marine Street substation. That equipment was damaged during the weekend’s power outage.
Over e-mail today, Utility Director Bryan Bertacchi said that an extremely high voltage surge caused a failure of [the] large surge arrester on the main distribution bus.” He adds, “We want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”
For additional information please call the city’s Electric Department at 747-4000.
UPDATED — MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH AT 5PM
Sitka’s citywide power outage began at a construction sight. Local contractor K&E Alaska was working on a project on East DeGroff Street. They were hired by the city to help replace critical underground infrastructure, including water, sewer, and storm drainage lines.
On the job Saturday (09-15-18), an excavator with K&E accidentally snapped an overhead guy wire for a nearby utility pole. That pole supports both the city’s high voltage transmission line – known as the 69 kV line – and distribution line, which is how power gets to homes and businesses.
When that guy wire snapped, Utility Director Bryan Bertacchi says it may have hit those two lines and set off a chain of events for the city-owned power grid. This all happened around 5:33 p.m.
“Potentially, it looks that guy wire – which is just a steel stranded wire that helps support the pole – snapped and flew up and potentially contacted both those circuits. What would result potentially is a high voltage condition on the distribution side, that could have caused some of these impacts,” Bertacchi said.
The city’s line crew reset the system. A CBS press release Monday morning (09-17-18) said power was fully restored in Sitka by 9:33 p.m. on Saturday. As of Monday afternoon, the Electric Department is still collecting data from the outage and drawing conclusions about its cause and consequence.
One of the first things they noticed were minor issues at the Green Lake Power Plant and Marine Street substation. They are fixing those first. To make the repair at Marine Street, which serves 80% of Sitka customers, Bertacchi expects another outage will have to take place. “Later this week, we will likely have to take about a two-hour outage late at night, maybe Thursday night, to make a repair at the Marine Street substation,” Bertacchi said.
Citizens are also taking stock of the damage from the potential overvoltage that caused the power outage on Saturday. As of this report, the City has received fifteen calls about damaged heat pumps and other electronics that won’t start. Raven News has heard over a dozen reports about broken microwaves, modems, washers and dryers, televisions, in-floor heating, and other electronic appliances around town.
Kris Karsunky with Sitka Construction Solutions has been fielding calls from citizens with Fujitsu heat pumps since Saturday night. Over the phone with KCAW, Karsunky said that other makes and models of heat pumps have been impacted.
In a second press release sent out Monday afternoon, the City and Borough of Sitka advised citizens to check all life-saving electronic equipment, such as fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. Community Affairs Director Maegan Bosak said that any problems with appliances or other systems should be reported to homeowner’s insurance.
Those with questions and concerns should contact the city’s Utility Desk at 747-1818.